Beans, avocado, nuts and soy are among the top foods that help reduce cholesterol, according to Prevention. Reducing saturated fat is key for reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, maintaining HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing risk of stroke or heart attack.
Beans such as navy, pinto, kidney, chickpea and white beans are loaded with soluble fiber, which help to bind acids in the intestines and keep them from being re-absorbed into the body, notes Prevention. Beans are also high in protein, as are soy beans and other types of soy foods, including soy nuts, tofu, soy flour and soy milk. Soy is an excellent replacement for animal-based foods that are naturally high in saturated fat such as beef, pork and cream, milk and other dairy products.
Avocado contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and beta-sitosterol, states Prevention. Monounsaturated fat is excellent for healthy joints. Incorporating a moderate amount of healthy fats into a daily eating plan is also healthier than a low-fat diet. People should strive to get at least 15 percent of their daily fat intake from monounsaturated fat, which is better than polyunsaturated fat found in corn oils.
Other monounsaturated-fat sources include nuts such as walnuts, almonds and cashews, according to Prevention. Nuts have other benefits, including being sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, copper and phytochemicals. Eating a couple of tablespoons of nuts five times per week can help prevent heart disease and other illnesses.
Most cholesterol-lowering foods work by affecting the levels of high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol collects in the walls of the blood vessels, eventually causing blockages. HDL helps remove LDL cholesterol from where it collects in the arteries.
Oatmeal and oat bran are high in soluble fiber, which can reduce the absorption of LDL cholesterol. Beans are also high in soluble fiber. At least 10 grams of soluble fiber decreases the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are good for reducing blood pressure. Mackerel, lake trout, herring, salmon and sardines all have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are also in ground flaxseed and canola oil.
Walnuts, almonds and other nuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, which positively impact HDL cholesterol. Patients should eat 1 1/2 ounces daily for this benefit.
Olive oil contains antioxidants that lower LDL levels. Roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil daily results in this benefit. Cooks can substitute olive oil for other fats in cooking and in dressings.
Spinach contains lutein, which improves the level of HDL cholesterol in the blood. The monounsaturated fat in avocado also promotes HDL cholesterol. Garlic prevents cholesterol particles from sticking to the artery walls.